The Next Big Thing Page 3

The Next Big Thing

Part 3: So which yachts could benefit from diesel-electric? Well, the larger the better.

January 2005

 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Diesel-Electric
• Part 2: Diesel-Electric
• Part 3: Diesel-Electric
• Diesel-Electric For Smaller Craft?

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As to cost, Dick Boone of Vripak estimates materials alone add 15 percent to the total price of a diesel-electric boat, a figure somewhat offset by the greater fuel efficiency and longevity of a properly loaded diesel engine. Boone states, “On average a conventional engine running at 30 percent of rated power suffers a fuel penalty of 36 percent.” Diesel-electric allows engines to run at optimum efficiency continuously, thus negating that fuel penalty. The payback time for such savings is, of course, proportional to how much the yacht is used. Vripak compares a prototype 160-foot motoryacht with conventional diesels to one with diesel-electric. At 9 knots the conventional diesels actually had 12 percent better fuel efficiency. At 12 knots the two systems rated the same. At 15 knots the diesel-electric was an impressive 15 percent more efficient, plus the engines emitted less nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide.

So which yachts could benefit from diesel-electric? Well, the larger the better. The more space a yacht has to accommodate the hardware and the closer its auxiliary power requirements are to its propulsion demands, the better the candidate. Lürssen, the German yard that built Octopus and Limitless, says a yacht should be at least 250 feet, while Vripak has found advantages in a 160-foot test vessel.

So why don’t more owners chose diesel-electric propulsion? Many do, but only a few owners can afford to build over 160 feet. Still, over the last two decades the use of diesel-electric has increased by 250 percent, according to Daniel Reinhardt, senior press manager at MTU, though he admits the number of yachts using diesel-electric 20 years ago was small. But builders and owners tend to stick with what they know. Working with an unfamiliar system like diesel-electric can be costly, and owners may not see or be attracted to the eventual savings. Owners won’t invest until the cost of diesel electric comes down, and until that happens, there may not be enough diesel-electric yachts to prove the system works in pleasureboats.

However, the 2004 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show revealed some interesting trends, among them that more builders are integrating all the systems on their boats. Diesel-electric power does that with propulsion and auxiliary systems and allows an owner to monitor and control everything from one automated program. Imagine powering up your entire vessel from a single touchscreen. Diesel-electric lets you do that, which is why it just may be the future of marine power.

Next page > Diesel-Electric For Smaller Craft? > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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